I hate crippling conflict, and I suspect you do too.
It's the kind of tense dynamic that emerges when we get anxious, freeze up with fright, stop listening, start demanding, insist on compliance, disparage and dismiss others, and eventually find ourselves isolated, alienated, and without influence.
Now, let's face it. Most of us don't take responsibility for our part in generating that dynamic in the midst of the conflict. At least, I don't. To reach a more constructive place of self-awareness and self-management, we need to find the space to compose a wise mix of instinct, emotion, and intellect that best serves the common good.
The best way to create that space, first for ourselves and then for the others involved, is to engage in constructive curiosity.
Here are 5 sample questions to ask yourself and your colleagues:
- What do I see as the core issue in this conflict and what do others think it is?
- What values are being violated and needs not being met in this conflict?
- What would I like to see happen in this situation?
- What story based on what assumptions am I telling myself about the other people involved? Are the assumptions valid and is the story true?
- Whose interests are most important to serve in this situation?
These questions refocus your attention to positive possibilities. They broaden your perspectives and build constructive options for consideration by everyone - you first, then your colleagues. They build constructive capacity by opening up possibilities.
Refuse to ask these kinds of questions and you stay crippled by the conflict, stuck in the mud of your own little puddle of rightness.
Jazz musicians are always in the constructive curiosity mode of conflict. They know the common core chart well, the melody (purpose) they intend to serve. They come to it knowing they are invited to contribute their own talents and ideas. They try out various ways of improvising on the melody. Their colleagues in the group listen with respect, then test out their ways, all in the service of playing the melody with innovation and brilliance. Out of that dynamic, fed by constructive curiosity, emerges a unique and inspiring performance, like this one by the Manhattan Jazz Orchestra:
Imagine what this might have sounded like if one musician in particular insisted on his own way of interpreting the piece, playing loud and long to enforce his views. The others would probably get discouraged and disengage. You could see in their faces and their bodies. They might even walk off the stage in disgust. That's what crippling conflict sounds like and looks like. It's anything but constructive.
You play jazz every time you have a conversation. The dynamic we've been exploring goes on for you every day in every encounter. So, how are you contributing your voice to constructive curiosity? How are you managing your voice to prevent crippling conflict? Are you creating the space for innovation and brilliance?
If we can do anything at Jazzthink - speaking, facilitation, or coaching - to help you discover the voices, vibes, and values that will help you generate constructive curiosity, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.